Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Finally, the Tattoo!



From your comments, I’ve concluded that my past three postings have whetted your interest in the Arthur/Dee tattoo. 


In the first posting, you met Arthur,  my lion friend, who’s been with me since September 1941—kindergarten. 


In the second, you met Ruby, the enterprising child of the dandelion patch.


In the third, you met her as a young adult who’d set herself the goal of becoming a master tattoo artist.


Now! Voilà! The three meet in the Tattoo Parlor along with Ruby’s mother and my “grand-daughter”—Elisa. 


I’ve never done a blog that featured several photographs. Today, however, I’m letting the pictures tell the story. You may ask, “Was it painful?” No.


“Did I ask Ruby a lot of questions?” No


“How long did it take?”  About a half hour and during that time, Elisa stood next to the tattoo chair. She kept telling the clients and the three other tattoo artists—Ruby’s mentors—what an amazing person I am. I just let her say whatever as I knew I’d never be meeting any of them again and so it didn’t matter if they held preposterous thoughts about me.


She threw in “. . . and she was a nun for a number of years!!!!!” That bit of gossip caught the interest of everyone there. So, for the remainder of the tattooing, I responded to questions from everyone. None of them had ever known a nun before, much less one who’d left the convent. They seemed amazed that I had a sense of humor and that I was—well, frankly—a human being!


All in all, a rollicking and somewhat whimsical experience for me. 


And while Elisa encouraged questions and “egged” everyone on and I responded, probably with some exaggeration, Ruby just worked her magic. 






Friday, August 19, 2022

"Can't Help Falling in Love..." with Tattooing

Fourteen years ago, Ruby, a six-year-old, provided forks for her hired playmates to use while digging up dandelions. She and her mom didn’t agree on the profit margin Ruby had established. However, the young entrepreneur made enough money to purchase tools for her next venture: Art.


Throughout her school years, she entered art contests and won ribbons.  Whether using oil, watercolor, pencil, or chalk, on paper or canvas, her creations were evocative. She carefully listened to someone, like myself, talk. She “saw” pictures; she “felt” emotions; and then, she produced a piece of art that spoke to that person in a personal way.


I have been the recipient of several of her creations—one sits on a bookshelf across the room from me. I’m looking at it now. It’s a path through a forest. In the background is  the silver sliver of a waterfall. Whenever I gaze at that oil painting in its pentagon edging, I travel through that forest, to that waterfall, and stand ready for its tumbling water to drench me in memories that will speak to the readers of my next memoir. 


I have other pieces of  her art on my refrigerator door, on my bedroom wall, and in a folder entitled “Ruby’s Art.” Through these gifts, I can trace her growth as an artist.


While still in high school, Ruby began to post her artistic designs online. She sold many of these and also took orders for more individual designs. She is now twenty—soon to be twenty-one. All those years of art have morphed into one love, one passion: to create personal tattoos with ink as the medium and skin as the canvas.


When she first shared this love with me, I thought of Elvis Presley singing “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Elvis sang of physical love. Ruby, I thought, can’t help falling in love with tattooing.


When that love affair began three years ago, Ruby’s went to a local tattoo parlor that was well-known in several states. “Will you take me on as an apprentice?” she asked the three renowned artists there.




Ruby didn’t take that emphatic “no” for a final answer. Instead, after school each day, she came to the shop and did odd jobs: unpacking and shelving supplies, sweeping floors, dusting cabinets, cleaning toilets and sinks, picking up lunch for the men. 


Periodically, she’d ask, “Will you mentor me?”




For a year she showed up each workday afternoon. (It reminded me of the Little Prince and the Fox in the classic book by Saint-Exupéry.)  During that time, the men gave her an assignment: To study the history of tattooing, its diversity of styles, and its most famous practitioners; to write papers about her studies; and, finally, to create designs that were examples of the varied styles. When she talked to me about her discoveries, I could hear the excitement in her voice.



Weeks, months, passed. Then last summer, while she swept the floor, the three men—convinced of her commitment—spoke: “Ruby, we’ll mentor you.” 


She began with customers who wanted simple designs. As the weeks passed, her mentors had her take on more complicated tattoos. Under their tutelage, she began to develop her own distinctive “light” touch tattooing and her own distinctive style.


She did all this without pay.


In 2022, she began charging for her work. The photo below shows a recent tattoo she did for her sister. As children, they’d both modeled outfits their mother designed, made, and sold. One photograph shows Sky in yellow; the other, Ruby in maroon. These aided Ruby in her design.

When next I post, I’ll share with you the tattoo Ruby did for me.